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Keeping Europe’s seed sector competitive, Philippe Saux’s interviewqrcode

Aug. 8, 2019

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Aug. 8, 2019
General Manager in Euralis Seeds S.A.S.
European Seed: Philippe, what are the main issues at the moment for the European seed sector?
In my view, one of the main issues is the possibility to uphold a competitive and independent European seed sector in the context of the uncertainty over the rights to use the New Breeding Techniques (gene editing and others) in our R&D activities dedicated to European markets. It is for us a huge challenge to stay in the race with big companies who can use the techniques in their non-EU countries. Another main issue is our capacity of the genetics to face the increasing demand for a more “green” agriculture in Europe, including organic farming.
Where are the biggest growth markets for the EU seed companies?
Well, on the quantitative side we have of course the Eastern European countries which are currently major the drivers because the acreage of the main crops is not fixed yet and farmers have strong demands for innovation and technology. E.g. in Russia, sunflower or soybean can get new hectares in regions where these crops are not fully cultivated today. We also see that the market share of “western genetics” is increasing year after year. It has reached around 85% of total sunflower seed market in Ukraine. On the qualitative side, we see a growth of the demand of sustainable genetic solutions for “organic” agriculture.
What needs to change in Europe to be more competitive?
First of all, we need to have access to all the available technologies, which means fair rules to compete in a globalized world and furthermore we would need the political courage to support the principle of innovation.
In terms of the seed sector, what is keeping you up at night?
One thing that is often on my mind is value sharing and I wonder which business model to implement to capture the resources that are needed to keep our R&D investment. Another item is the critical size, in other words, is my company big enough to survive in this highly competitive market, with all the mergers and acquisitions.
Let’s say you had Macron, Trump, Johnson, Xi, and Putin in one room. What would you tell them?
I would encourage them to join the next general assembly of the Euralis’ members and check how the farmers are motivated to progress in their task of feeding safely their fellow citizens. Agriculture is not a classic industry, it is at the same time the first link in the food chain and the solution to meet today’s and tomorrow food challenges. That is why, agriculture needs to be accompanied by sustainable rules and access to innovation. In front of health, environment and climate challenges, I claim innovation first!

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